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Silent, Solid-State Propulsion for Advanced Air Mobility Vehicles

Silent solid state propulsion
Graphic depiction of Silent, Solid-State Propulsion for Advanced Air Mobility Vehicles Credits: Steven Barrett

Steven Barrett

Advanced air mobility (AAM) is an aviation ecosystem that envisions small, electric, vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft operations in urban areas. Community opposition to noise is likely the biggest obstacle to the widespread adoption of AAM vehicles. We propose to overcome this obstacle via designing electroaerodynamic (EAD) propulsion systems for AAM applications. EAD produces thrust through collisional ion acceleration without any moving surfaces. As such, EAD thrusters are nearly silent, enabling missions that would not otherwise be possible due to community opposition to noise. Example missions enabled by silent EAD propulsion include those near noise-sensitive urban communities, or time-critical delivery missions at night (e.g. for critical medical supplies), when community opposition to noise is most severe. Novel multi-stage ducted (MSD) EAD thrusters, in which multiple EAD thruster stages are enclosed inside a duct, will be used to increase thrust enough to enable VTOL operations. Under this effort, we will design a VTOL-capable, near-silent aircraft powered by MSD thrusters. The aircraft would enable package delivery missions in noise-sensitive areas or at night, where operations would otherwise not be allowed due to community opposition. This effort would be in support of the long term goals (1) to build and fly an MSD-powered aircraft, and (2) to assess the applicability of MSD thruster technology to other AAM use cases, including intra- and inter-city passenger transport.

2022 Phase I Selections